Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Review: Gathering the Threads

Gathering the Threads
By Cindy Woodsmall
Amish of Summer Grove #3
WaterBrook 2017


Finally back in the Old Order Amish world she loves, will Ariana’s new perspectives draw her family closer together—or completely rip them apart?

After months away in the Englisch world, Ariana Brenneman is overjoyed to be in the Old Order Amish home where she was raised. Yet her excitement is mixed with an unexpected apprehension as she reconciles all she’s learned from her biological parents with the uncompromising teachings of her Plain community. Although her childhood friend, ex-Amish Quill Schlabach, hopes to help her navigate her new role amongst her people, Ariana’s Daed doesn’t understand why his sweet daughter is suddenly questioning his authority. What will happen if she sows seeds of unrest and rebellion in the entire family?

Meanwhile, Skylar Nash has finally found her place among the large Brenneman family, but Ariana’s arrival threatens to unravel Skylar’s new identity—and her sobriety. Both Ariana and Skylar must discover the true cords that bind a family and community together and grasp tight the One who holds their authentic identities close to His heart.

Gathering the Threads is the third and final novel in The Amish of Summer Grove series.

Learn more, read an excerpt, and purchase a copy.

My thoughts

Gathering the Threads is an incredible story, a moving and thought-provoking conclusion to an equally incredible series. Characterization is rich, the plot engaging. The writing is powerful and impressive, as is the storyline. This is not your typical Amish story, but rather a relationship drama involving two families who find their lives and belief systems turned upside down. Each novel in this series flows into the next, but Gathering the Threads can be read as a standalone because sufficient background is provided early on.

Searching for identity and where to belong are key elements, as is legalism vs. grace. That Ariana and Skylar had been switched at birth wasn’t revealed until their 20th birthdays, and each family desires to know their biological child. Barriers to the outside world fall, and what was once separate now becomes blended. Ariana returns to her Amish family, surprised to realize that it no longer feels like home. While Ariana questions Amish spiritual traditions, the selfish Skylar tries to weaken Ariana’s position in the family.

Don’t be swayed from reading this just because you might not care for Amish fiction, because the whole series is so much more. Truth is relevant to everyone, for all time – and that is the concept presented in this story. Truth opens eyes and speaks to the heart, encouraging questions about human teaching and doctrines. Truth sets us free. Of all that Ariana was exposed to, her greatest joy was in discovering that God could speak to her heart through the Bible without the Ordnung’s legalism.

In the same way that the title is analogous to sewing, Gathering the Threads brings all the physical and spiritual threads together in one beautifully woven pattern. I doubt I’ll ever forget this story.

Highly recommended.

I was provided a free copy of this book through Litfuse Publicity. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.



Cindy Woodsmall is the “New York Times” and CBA best-selling author of nineteen works of fiction and non-fiction with more than a million copies sold. Her connection with the Amish community has been featured in national media outlets such as ABC’s “Nightline,” the “Wall Street Journal,” and a National Geographic documentary on Amish life.

Cindy and her husband reside near the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains.

Find out more about Cindy at http://www.cindywoodsmall.com.


Review (+ Tour GIVEAWAY): Returning Home

Returning Home
By Toni Shiloh
Freedom Lake #1
Indie, 2017


Jo Ellen Baker is shocked to find out that the boy who teased her mercilessly throughout high school, has returned to their hometown of Freedom Lake, and he’s missing a leg. When his mother asks her to renovate their carriage house to give him a place to gain his independence back, she wants to say no. But one look at him brings a rush of forgotten feelings.

Evan Carter can’t believe he has to return home and live with his parents. Every hope and dream he ever had dissipated in a car crash that cost him his leg. Stuck in a wheelchair, he’s forced to reexamine his relationship with God and the local carpenter, Jo Ellen Baker.

Will renovating his home open the door for a mended relationship, or are some wounds too deep to heal from?


My thoughts

I enjoyed this story very much and am glad to have discovered the writing of Toni Shiloh. On the surface, Returning Home seems like a sweet contemporary romance, but there’s a lot of emotion, complexity, and spiritual depth to explore. Set in the picturesque lakeside community of Freedom Lake, this relationship-driven story has appealing leading characters in Jo and Evan, as well as strong secondary characters.

I loved that we’re not given “perfect” characters in Evan and Jo. Not only does Evan wrestle with his current disability, but much of the action reflects back to his high school days when he was a popular athlete and just plain cruel to his former friend Jo. Were I in Jo’s place, I would have had trouble forgiving the past also. And then there’s the strained relationships with her sister and mom. Lots of emotional tension drives this entertaining story.

Returning Home reminds me of how God places people in our lives and patiently works through them. Both Evan and Jo had drifted away from God, but were recipients of truth spoken in love from friends and family. Evan let fear lead him, something that many of us can relate to, and doubted that he would ever be more than a burden.


God’s grace was more than he could fathom, but he wasn’t
going to let that prevent him from accepting it.
- Evan

In a time when a lot of Christian fiction distances itself from overt spiritual themes, a strength of this story for me actually was its spiritual themes, for it beautifully conveys the intersection of faith and life – dealing with bitterness and regrets, letting go of the past, discovering a God that never leaves us alone. Returning Home is a heartwarming story of ordinary people in ordinary situations – a story of grace, forgiveness, and transformation. I enjoyed every moment spent with these characters and look forward to returning to Freedom Lake.


I was provided a free copy of this book through Singing Librarian Tours. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.


Toni Shiloh is a wife, mom, and Christian fiction writer. Once she understood the powerful saving grace thanks to the love of Christ, she was moved to honor her Savior. She writes to bring Him glory and to learn more about His goodness.

She spends her days hanging out with her husband and their two boys. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and president of the Virginia Chapter.

You can find her on her website at http://tonishiloh.wordpress.com.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

October 16 - Christian Bookaholic
October 17 - Blossoms and Blessings | The Power of Words
October 18 - The Green Mockingbird 
October 19 - Joy of Reading | Red Headed Book Lady 
October 20 - Singing Librarian Books  | Ponderings of a Poet & Procrastinator
October 21 - Faithfully Bookish

Monday, October 16, 2017

Review (+ Tour GIVEAWAY): The Keeper of Her Heart

On Tour with Prism Book Tours.

The Keeper of her Heart
by Stacy Henrie
Inspirational Historical Romance
ebook, 271 pages
September 26th 2017 by Beyond the Page Publishing

If you like the novels of Deanne Gist and Lauraine Snelling, you’ll love USA Today bestselling author Stacy Henrie’s inspirational romance set against the backdrop of World War One!

Even at a young age, Ada Thorne knew that she would marry only for love, never money. So when she finds herself irrevocably drawn to Ned Henley, the lowly gamekeeper on a neighboring estate, she defies her parents and society by eloping with him to London to build a new life.

Without her family’s support, life in the city is far more difficult than the one of ease and privilege Ada has always known. She’ll find herself relentlessly tested in ways she never imagined—especially when Ned, answering the call of duty, enlists to serve his country in World War One.

Alone and near poverty with a child to raise, Ada’s resolve will be strained at every turn. And as she struggles to remain true to her convictions and live life on her own terms, Ada will embark on a journey of courage, faith, and love that will surpass even her own humble dreams . . .

Advanced Praise for the Book

“Stacy Henrie possesses superior storytelling skills, her historical accuracy and attention to detail are unsurpassed, and she knows how to create characters we can identify with and whom we really care for.” —Fresh Fiction

My Thoughts

It was through Stacy Henrie’s Love Inspired novels that I discovered how much I enjoyed her writing, but The Keeper of Her Heart has earned a special place in my heart. This well-written, poignant story is bittersweet and heartwarming at the same time. British settings are a favorite of mine, and historical detail of the World War I era is conveyed in a way that pulls you right into the story.

I admired so much about Ada – her desire to marry for love despite the personal cost, determination to adapt to a lifestyle completely foreign to all that she was used to, courage through unimaginable difficulties, and a sweet receptiveness to the gospel of Christ. Ned’s strong faith, tenderness, and protectiveness toward Ada made him an appealing character. Class structure plays a big part in this story, and the fact that the Thornes could turn their back on Ada and her child is unthinkable to me.

I especially enjoyed the way faith is conveyed in this story, how vital our belief system is to daily living. It’s good to be reminded that God will provide, grieves with us, and is with us through both good and bad circumstances – and that He is the true keeper of our hearts.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Keeper of Her Heart and look forward to more from Stacy Henrie.


I was provided a free copy of this book through Prism Tours. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

About the Author

USA Today bestselling author Stacy Henrie is the author of western romances and the Of Love and War series, which includes Hope at Dawn, a 2015 RITA Award finalist for excellence in romance. She was born and raised in the West, where she currently resides with her family. She enjoys reading, road trips, interior decorating, chocolate, and most of all, laughing with her husband and kids.

Tour Giveaway

- 1 winner will receive a $40 Amazon e-gift card and an e-book copy of any of Stacy's books (winner's choice)
- Open internationally
- Ends October 25th

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Eight Reasons to Come to The Art of Writing and Christy Awards

Today I’m honored to join the Christy Award Blog Tour and introduce you to Amy Green, senior fiction publicist at Bethany House Publishers. Amy’s enthusiasm is contagious as she shares about two upcoming events in Nashville for readers and future writers …

Hello, reading and writing friends! I’m Amy Green, the fiction publicist at Bethany House Publishers. But today I’m here to talk about something else, an event that I’m excited to be a part of: the Art of Writing Conference and the Christy Awards Gala.

If you enjoy reading inspirational fiction, have always wanted to meet authors, or dream of writing a book yourself, this is a not-to-be-missed event. Here are some reasons why you should be there, in no particular order…

One: Meet or Reunite with Author Friends

I’ve been eavesdropping in writer circles lately, and I’m already getting excited about the authors who have already signed up. Events like these are the place to go if you’re an aspiring writer with a dream or a reader who’s always wanted to meet Christian fiction authors in person, and you’ll be blown away at how friendly everyone is. It’s a warm, welcoming community that you’ll love being a part of.

Two: Celebrate Christian Fiction

This is a genre I love, full of people and stories I love, so I know gathering dozens of us in the same place will make for an evening filled with joy. Besides that, the program for the gala itself is going to be fantastic. Karen Kingsbury is giving the keynote address, and I heard rumors that YA author Andrew Peterson is going to be singing. Plus there will be dramatic readings, Chris Fabry is our MC, and of course the awards themselves are exciting to watch. All of it adds up to make a wonderful evening of cheering on authors who have put countless hours into creating great art.

Note: even if you’re “just a reader” and the conference workshops wouldn’t interest you, you’re invited to the gala dinner. If you’re in the Nashville area or are willing to make the trip, we’d love to have you (and you’d probably get a chance to track down a few autographs from the authors in attendance).

Three: Get Fancy

I love a red carpet event for an excuse to dress up, enjoy the atmosphere, and pretend I know how to eat a meal with more than one fork set out. There are always varying levels of dressiness at the Christy Awards—anywhere from Sunday-spiffy to glittery formal and everything in between, but generally people like to have a reason to wear something fancier than they usually would.

Four: Talk About Industry Issues with Key Decision-Makers

For this, I’m specifically talking about The Art of Writing event before the Christy gala. Take a look at the workshops for fiction authors that will be going on. It’s great to discuss these interesting questions and issues online, but I’ve found that often writers talk to other writers and publishers talk to other publishers. This is one place where people on both sides of the desk will be gathering to exchange ideas and start conversations. And it’s conversations like these that shape the future of where Christian fiction will go next. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?

Five: Network

Unlike a longer conference, there aren’t ways to sign up for formal appointments with agents and editors. However, it’s a great time to make connections with those people and with other writers in a more relaxed atmosphere. At a writing retreat I went on, one agent recently said that talking to writers in non-pitch settings helps her know if they’d be a good fit. With that in mind, there will be time set aside to network after the workshops, including with the author services and other partners who will be in attendance.

For connecting with other writers, be sure to bring a stack of business cards and find a way to stay in touch after the event is over—it’s great to form connections within the writing community that will later be helpful if you need to ask for or give critiques, marketing advice, and endorsements.

Six: Learn in a Cost-Effective Way

Multi-day conferences are awesome. They’re also really expensive. That’s why we specifically set the price for the workshops and the gala dinner together at $99. This day of workshops is a great way to make connections and download tons of information on the publishing industry in a short period of time. The session topics were taken directly from a list of what writers and publishers wanted to talk about, and they’re designed to be highly practical. As of right now, we won’t have the technology in place to record the sessions (sorry to all of you who can’t come!), so this is your one chance. You won’t want to miss them!

Seven: Explore Nashville

Because of Tamera Alexander’s books, I’ve had the Belmont and Belle Meade mansions on my to-visit list for a while now, and apparently the Parthenon is impressive too. Not to mention the state museum and the wide range of country music sights to see. Also, the barbecue is incredible! If you’re stopping in for the Christys, stay a day or two and look around Nashville. (Any excuse for a vacation, right?)

Eight: Meet Me!

Honestly, this one is more for me than for you. I’m not particularly cool or exciting, especially when I’m in a room full of Christian fiction authors. That said, I do enjoy meeting new people, particularly those who love books as much as I do.

We’d love to see you at the upcoming Art of Writing Conference and Christy Awards! You can find out more about the event below, or if you’re already convinced, you can register here.

About the Art of Writing Conference: The Art of Writing is designed to bring Christian creatives and publishing curators together for a half day of intensive seminars that celebrate the creative life, provide practical tips for overcoming challenges in a rapidly-changing industry, and answer questions authors are asking.

The speakers represent a wide range of roles and areas of expertise. Andrew Peterson, young adult writer and founder of the Rabbit Room, will give advice on how to create and benefit from a vibrant creative community, while Wheaton College professor Theon Hill, Ph.D. will present a survey of the obstacles and opportunities of diversity in Christian fiction. Authors will receive encouragement for the ups and downs of the writing life from blogger Carrie Schmidt and author, agent, and ACFW public relations liaison Cynthia Ruchti. Finally, a panel of representatives from major ECPA publishers will share insider information on where the genre has been, where it’s going, and the exciting changes they see in today’s market for writers. Learn more about the speakers and sessions here.

About the Christy Awards: The Christy Award™ is designed to nurture and encourage creativity and quality in the writing and publishing of fiction written from a Christian worldview and showcase the diversity of genres. The award is named for Catherine Marshall’s enduring bestselling novel, Christy, published in 1967 and inspiring a continuing book series and a CBS television series starring Kellie Martin. The novel will be re-released in 2017 in a 50th anniversary legacy edition by Gilead Publishing in partnership with Kregel Publications.

Hosted by award-winning author and radio host Chris Fabry, this year’s celebration gala dinner will feature New York Times bestselling author Karen Kingsbury as well as musician and writer Andrew Peterson. You can view the finalist list here.

Tour Schedule

Monday, October 9: Top Ten Writing Industry Issues at Seekerville
Tuesday, October 10: Give Us Your Best Questions at By the Book
Wednesday, October 11: Interview with Dr. Theon Hill at Reading is My Superpower
Thursday, October 12: Celebrating the Christy Awards…With a Giveaway! at Bethany House Fiction
Friday, October 13: Quiz: Pick Your Gala Dress at Dani Pettrey’s blog
Saturday, October 14: Eight Reasons to Come to The Art of Writing at The Power of Words
Sunday, October 15: Interview with Carrie Schmidt at Bookworm Mama
Monday, October 16: Interview with Cynthia Ruchti at Just Commonly
Tuesday, October 17: Christy Nominee Bingo and Giveaway at Faithfully Bookish
Wednesday, October 18: The Unofficial Readers’ Choice Cover Awards at Singing Librarian Books

Friday, October 13, 2017

Review (+ Tour GIVEAWAY): The Case of the Clobbered Cad

The Case of the Clobbered Cad
By Debra E. Marvin
Nosy Parker Mysteries #2
Journey Fiction, 2017


Inspired by the famous Girl Detective, the members of the Olentangy Heights Girls’ Detective Society, affectionately known as the Nosy Parkers, spent their formative years studying criminology, codes, and capers. Unfortunately, opportunities to put their unique skills to work were thin on the ground in the post-war boom of their little corner of suburbia and they eventually grew up to pursue more sensible careers. Until…

Heather Munro’s youthful devotion to The Girl Detective led to a passion for digging around in history. Now pursuing her Master’s Degree in Celtic Studies, Heather must balance exploring Edinburgh with her determination to excel in her all–male classes at the University. Unfortunately, on her first night working in the Archives room, she discovers the dead body of a visiting professor, the same would-be lothario she’d hoped never to see again.

As clues come to light, it’s clear someone hopes to frame Heather for the murder. Besides her quirky landlady, whom can she trust? How can she clear her name? The police and the American Consul have plenty of suspects, but only two seem to have both motive and opportunity: Heather and the quiet Scottish historian she longs to trust.

My thoughts

I loved this well-crafted story so much – and what a great title! First of all, I’ve always been drawn to British books and movies, period or contemporary … and the theme of a young postgrad student pursuing her Masters in Edinburgh? Fantastic! (Note to Debra E. Marvin: You had me at the mention of Greyfriar’s Bobby, a wonderful legend and unforgettable Disney classic movie.) It was fun seeing Edinburgh through young Heather’s eyes.

Secondly, it was my love for that famous “girl detective” that helped me become an avid reader, and also gave me a love for mysteries. (While I read almost every Nancy Drew volume ever published, the Judy Bolton “girl detective” series was even better – but that’s a topic for another day.) I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything that speaks to the adult Nancy Drew/Judy Bolton lover like Marvin’s story. So creative and just plain fun!

Then there’s the strong characterization. Heather is such an appealing leading lady and she’s someone I could easily become friends with. I wasn’t sure about Tom at first, but quickly came to care about this Scottish historian that she meets on her first day. And then there’s the precious Mrs. Kintyre, Heather’s landlady and crime-solving partner. Her rationale for getting involved? “No one pays any attention to a graying woman with a thick waist. We’re invisible.”

The story is written from a biblical worldview, with it being obvious that faith is important to the characters. Heather carries the guilt of a brief indiscretion that follows her to Edinburgh, and I appreciated the reminder that, although decisions have consequences, we are each responsible for our own actions.

The Case of the Clobbered Cad is a delightful read and I’m eager to see more of Heather, Tom, and Mrs. Kintyre.

Highly recommended.

I was provided a free copy of this book through Great Escapes Tours. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.


Debra E. Marvin tries not to run too far from real life, but the imagination born out of being an only child has a powerful draw. Besides, the voices in her head tend to agree with all the sensible things she says.

She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Sisters in Crime, and serves on the board of Bridges Ministry in Seneca Falls, NY. She is published with WhiteFire Publishing, Forget Me Not Romances, and contracted with Journey Fiction, and a judge for the Grace Awards for many years.

Debra works as a program assistant at Cornell University, and enjoys her family and grandchildren, obsessively buying fabric, watching British programming and traveling with her childhood friends.


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